As you’ve probably gathered, I love beer; but it wasn’t my first infatuation. Actually, that was the sea, and all the creatures it contained. When I was young, my weekly treat was being allowed to stay up late to watch The Living Planet, the follow up to the first of Sir David Attenborough’s ‘Life’ series, Life on Earth. Back in 1984, nature documentaries weren’t on television all the time – it was long before channels such as Discovery and Eden existed on our fibre-optic, multiply HD–channelled, on-demand televisions. Once a week, Sir David – the UK’s greatest living treasure – brought the natural world to life, by becoming a part of it, being there on location and explaining what was going on, as it surrounded him.
I was entranced, right from the start. All of it was mesmerising to me, these creatures that lived in forests, plains and at the poles. But it was the oceans that really, really, fascinated me. The idea that all of these incredible creatures were there, all the time, just under the surface of the sea. I still remember an episode with Sir David lying on a dune at night, inches from a Leatherback Turtle laying eggs. As a result of scenes like this from The Living Planet, I began reading kid’s books about whales, dolphins, sharks, and any other marine life I could get hold of. From a very early age, directly because of watching this television series, I knew I wanted to be a marine biologist. That was my dream job.
Fast-forward many years, and after having worked through school and college with that aim in mind, I completed a degree in Marine Biology from the University of Stirling. It was whilst there, at the (long since modernised) student bar, that I tried my first ever non-lager beer (McEwans 70/-). We used to sit on the sticky carpet and drink sub-£2 pints of 70/-, not daring to go into the ‘Alehouse’ bar, as that was where the mature students went to smoke rollups and drink beer with names we didn’t understand. Well, not that I understood the shilling system, either. Anyway, I started to think more about beer, as a result – what I was drinking, and why. Those little green bottles of Mickey’s lager just didn’t taste the same, once I’d forced myself to try an alternative.
Once I’d left, I struggled to find work in what was a very small field. There’s a longstanding dilemma: which situation is worse; not knowing what you want to do with your life, or knowing exactly, and not being able to do it? For me, it was obviously the latter. Studying for a Masters’ degree, I ended up briefly working in a marine research station on Humberside; my job was, literally, to count worms. That was it – well, aside from the days when we’d have to gloop around in the acrid-smelling mud of Grimsby docks, digging up more samples to take back and sift through. A long way from the Barrier Reef. I left, got a non-biology temp job in Edinburgh, and was quickly offered a full-time role, which I took. I’ve now been with the same organisation for fourteen years.
But no more. At the same time, I’d managed to work on that slight interest in beer, writing and blogging about what it tasted like, then who was making it, and now pretty much anything to do with the industry. Looking back, I guess I was very lucky to start developing that enthusiasm at roughly the same time as a huge upturn in British brewing (this would be 2007). After we experimented with podcasts – and recorded 71 that hardly anyone listened to – I just started to concentrate on what was going on in Scotland, with the burgeoning brewing scene here, north of the border. One name that stood out then, of course, was BrewDog – and due to their antics, I ended up writing about them a considerable amount.
Alongside the BeerCast, for some time now I’ve written on a contractual basis, freelancing for publications and the like. As you can imagine, I have found that the more writing I’ve done, the more I’ve enjoyed it – to the point where it has ceased becoming a secondary career, and become something I know I want to become involved with directly. So, that is what I’m doing. Since the start of the year, one of my long-standing contracts has been with the aforementioned BrewDog, writing posts on their website, pieces for Hop Propaganda, label copy etc. After discussion with James Watt, we have come to an arrangement to make that contract a permanent one; next Monday I’ll have worked my notice on the day job, and will be starting my new career with BrewDog.
There are several reasons for this; a chance to work within the industry, as I said – earning my salary from writing about beer. Also, of course, it’s working for BrewDog, an energised company and group of people I know very well, and feel I can make a difference with. With that in mind, I should say at this point that the BeerCast won’t change; James and the team are perfectly happy for me to carry on writing the blog, as I do now. After all, I’ve made it this far combining the blog with a day job of higher priority – so I can use what I’ve learned over the last eight years to continue in the same vein, only now, those veins will be closer (not a great metaphor, I know).
But the most important reason for making this change is the point I’ve laboured through to get this far, of course; it’s only when I fully considered the implications of the decision that I realised I’ve never actually had a job I liked before. Sure; I’ve been lucky and also never had one that I hated, or made me stressed, but getting up and going to work has been something I just did, to earn money and go from there. The excitement I got was from writing, meeting people in the beer industry, and talking to those who enjoy their products. And that is exactly what I’ll be doing now; only for BrewDog, as well as with the BeerCast.
Apologies for writing such a long and self-involved post, but this is one I’ve wanted to write since, well, 1984.